Amy Salmon's E-Mail from Thailand
Whew! What a week! I have been to
back, moved, gotten a Thai cell phone and Thai bank account, and
some truly adorable Thai children how to play Hangman and Bingo.
moved into a furnished apartment that's very nice. The visa
successful and I've now been about 2 blocks into Myanmar.
country off the list! It was a wild day. It turned out that
was no group going that day so I went on my own, with detailed
from my Thai friends on how and where to go.
I left at 6:30 am and took a "regular bus",
which I didn't think was air-conditioned but actually was, from Chiang
Chiang Rai. That took about 3 ½ hours. My assigned
seat turned out
to be next to the only other Westerner, or farang as they say
here, on the bus, a German guy who'd lived in northern California
years and has been in Thailand for three. We had an interesting
conversation about Thai politics, which are in a state of turmoil
moment. Basically there have been lots of demonstrations against
the Thai Prime Minister, in Bangkok.
Right now there are about 200,000 people camped out in front of
demanding his resignation. It's all coming to a head at the
is holding an election on April 2 and it may end up being disrupted
of the people demanding that Thaksin resign are threatening to boycott
election or something if he doesn't. We're pretty removed from it
here in Chiang Mai, although there was a pro-Thaksin rally the other
day at the
Thapae Gate. He's got a lot of support in rural Thailand but not in Bangkok. He just made a lot of
selling a telecommunications company to Singapore
that made a lot of people angry; they're also marching in front
embassy in Bangkok.
I just saw that on the
Australian news. There hasn't been any violence in Bangkok or
anything, just a lot of
noise. Something along these lines happened in the early 90s and
king had to intervene to get the parties to talk and resolve the
situation. Although Thailand
is a constitutional monarchy and the king doesn't have any real
power, he has tremendous influence, and is revered by the Thai people.
Anyway, when I got to Chiang Rai I had a couple of
I went to the Hilltribe
Museum, which was
interesting. Then I caught another bus up to the Thai city that
Mae Sai. This was what's called an "ordinary bus", which is not
air-conditioned. I was the only farang around.
It took another two hours. Then I had to take a taxi to the
border. I got on one that said "Border/Immigration", which
looked pretty straightforward.
All went well until I started to panic that I'd
missed the border when we went under some arch that I thought looked
and passed signs that said "Mae Sai Immigration". I tried in
vain to find someone who spoke English on the taxi. (Taxis
flatbed trucks, painted red, with two benches facing each
Then someone said in very limited English that this was where I needed
off, so I did, and went to the building that said immigration.
polite man said, in perfect English, "No, ma'am, you need to go another
two kilometers to Myanmar." Argh. So I went back out to the
road, where there was not a taxi or a tuk-tuk to be found. I was
there, sweating like a pig as usual, and debating whether or not I had
energy to start walking to Myanmar
when a Thai schoolgirl came up and asked if she could help me.
translated for me and got me onto a motorbike taxi, which had
of nowhere. Not to be confused with a tuk-tuk, which has
This was just the bike. Fun times!
Once I finally got to the border I realized that
hard to miss, considering that there's a huge sign, and another arch,
"The Union of Myanmar", plus about a million booths that you have to
go through before you can leave Thailand.
Definitely a boneheaded move bailing on the red taxi, but live and
learn! I had to fill out a departure card,
was leaving Thailand,
and have it stamped about three times. I just kept showing my
saying, "Visa?" My favorite part was when one of the Thai
officials looked at my passport, saw that I had duly received my
stamps, and said, "You go to Myanmar, now!"
This meant following a stream of people under the
said "The Union of Myanmar", making sure that I was in the
"In" line and not the "Out" line. Then I went into
yet another booth where Myanmar
immigration gave me another few stamps and asked me where I was
He said OK, gave me back my passport, and I crossed the street and got
line going under the "Out" sign. Then I crossed under yet
another arch, this one reading "Welcome to the Kingdom of Thailand".
I got an arrival card, filled it out, and got into the line of people
"Passport Control" line. Several more stamps later, I was back
searching out red taxis. I found one that said Mae Sai bus
one fortunately containing another farang who confirmed that
I was in
the right place.
Back at the Mae Sai bus station, I had
time to get some food before boarding the bus back to Chiang
had bought one for the "VIP Bus", which
turned out to be really nice. They also served food.
back to Chiang Mai took another 4 hours. It's not bad except in
mountains, where some of the roads are seriously windy and
I was reading until all of a sudden I had a rare bout of
thought I was going to be sick then and there. I think it
the heat than anything, but I put the book away and just
tried not to
move. All ended well but I was happy to see Chiang Mai
month I think I may just fly to Laos! My
shower is calling me, so I'll say good
night. I'll tell you more about school later. It's
a lot of fun...very challenging, but
quite rewarding. Lots of love, Amy
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